While the city's former immigration pier won't officially open as the latest Delaware River park until August, a sneak peek at that history, and the current ecology, happens later this month.
Pennsport's Pier 53, located near the intersection of Columbus Boulevard and Washington Avenue, behind the Sheet Metal Workers Union, is the spot where many Philadelphia families first arrived in this country. In more recent years, it's been a welcoming place for plants, birds and fish.
Workers have stabilized the pier, removed invasive vegetation and begun working on the boardwalk that will allow future park visitors to reach the water's edge, said Planner/Project Manager Lizzie Woods of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, the quasi-city agency leading this project and overseeing the redevelopment of the Central Delaware.
They've also started the foundation for the Land Buoy art installation by artist Jody Pinto, who was inspired by the immigrant history. The art piece itself is being fabricated off-site, Woods said.
The existence of the future park site and the already existing Washington Avenue Green at the land-end of the pier have been much less than obvious to those passing by on Columbus Avenue. But Woods said work has also begun on an entrance. Plants are going in now, and closer to the pier's opening a gateway marker, also designed by Pinto, will be installed.
The progress made by June 21 will be on display during that day's Sneak Peek event, to be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Participants in the free event will be able to take a guided tour of construction-in-progress and the nearby waterfront trail and piers. The tours are currently scheduled for 11:30 and 12:30, but more can be added if there is demand, Woods said.
Those who attend can visit multiple eco-stations to see, touch and learn about the water, plants and animals of the river. Using materials from the Delaware, kids can make their own terrariums and take them home.
The June event is also a chance to learn about some of the people who arrived in Philadelphia through the Pier 53 immigration station, both by playing a game and talking to descendants of some of those immigrants.
Landscape design firm Applied Ecological Services, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and Friends of Washington Avenue Green are partnering to put on this event. WAG president and historian Susan McAninley has lead the immigration station research. (Learn more about her research by following the link to the Friends of WAG website above.)
Read more about the future park and see design images in the related article below.
Kellie Patrick Gates writes about planning, neighborhood development and the Central Delaware Waterfront. A journalist for more than two decades, she worked for daily newspapers in Central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York and South Florida before coming to Philadelphia in 2003 to write for the Inquirer. Her work has appeared on PlanPhilly since 2007, and she also writes Love, the Inquirer's weekly wedding column. A native of Elk County, Pa., Kellie lives with her husband, Gary, and their dog and two cats.
Follow her on Twitter @KelliePGates